Judge Reconsiders Allowing US Copyright Group To Shake Down 23,322 People Over Potential Expendables Infringement

from the not-so-fast dept

We recently noted that a judge in one of the biggest mass copyright infringement lawsuits ever filed, representing 23,322 potential infringers of the movie The Expendables, had allowed the lawyers at US Copyright Group to issue subpoenas on those people in order to properly serve them with the lawsuit. However, it appears the judge is reconsidering -- perhaps because lots of people have since raised the point that these efforts often appear more like a shakedown than any legitimate lawsuit, and the judge has taken notice. After saying that "several issues... have recently come to light regarding this case", he goes on to berate US Copyright Group lawyers for failing to have served a single person out of the 23,322.

The judge also seems to have discovered (a bit late, but better late than never) the jurisdictional issue that most other judges who have been dealing with these cases have noted, in that the vast majority of those sued almost certainly do not live in the region of the DC district court, and this troubles the court:
The Court hereby ORDERS Plaintiff, if it intends to pursue the previously filed motion for expedited discovery, to show cause as to why venue and joinder is proper for all 23,322 putative defendants in this case. Alternatively, Plaintiff may seek leave to amend its complaint to name a certain subset of defendants and file a new motion for expedited discovery, addressing both legally and factually why venue and joinder is proper as to each defendant, and how Plaintiff intends to establish the same. In either case, Plaintiff shall submit a proposed discovery plan that: 1) sets forth a time certain for which it seeks to pursue non-party discovery on an expedited basis; and 2) outlines how Plaintiff intends to serve each defendant within 120 days of filing the amended complaint pursuant to Rule 4(m) or proposes any extensions Plaintiff may seek in order to effectuate service on all named defendants.
Read through the whole order. This is a judge who is not amused. This statement being the key one:
The Court finds it inappropriate and a waste of scarce judicial resources to allow and oversee discovery on claims or relating to defendants that cannot be prosecuted in this lawsuit.
It seems that more and more judges are beginning to recognize these cases for what they really are. Attempts to use the court system as a threat-based business model, rather than as a venue for resolving actual legal issues.

Filed Under: copyright, expendables
Companies: dunlap grubb & weaver, us copyright group


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  1. icon
    DannyB (profile), 9 Jun 2011 @ 6:34am

    So what is their best option to get out of this mess?

    So if they never intended to sue anyone, how do they get out of this mess?

    They could take the second of the two choices:

    Alternatively, Plaintiff may seek leave to amend its complaint to name a certain subset of defendants and file a new motion for expedited discovery, addressing both legally and factually why venue and joinder is proper as to each defendant

    If a single defendant is a "subset", then they could narrow their case to one. (Or two since they have to show why joinder is proper.) Then they have to show why venue and joinder is proper, so the one (or two) defendants they keep in the suit would have to be subject to the court's jurisdiction. If they can't pick one, then the two that they pick would have to somehow be proper to join together as defendants.

    The rest of that paragraph shows that the judge means business about them having to pursue these defendants. So it looks like he intends to make them go through with an actual lawsuit.

    So what if they want to back out, which we know was the plan all along? What will the judge do?

    US Copyright Group: (in Cartman voice) But juuuuuudge! We don't want to sue now. We just want to get quick shakedown settlements.

    If they are not prepared to show beyond doubt why these defendants should be joined, and that they are all provably guilty (not just some IP address) then I hope he really lets them have it. Hit them where it hurts -- financially?

    Or better yet, misuse of copyrights.

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